Both sides of the ‘R’ word

THE word recruiting has always sparked a heated debate in this area, especially when high school coaches are being accused of performing the act.

The idea behind it is an irritating one. A coach or alumnus talks to some up-and-coming athlete from a nearby school and coerces this naive teenager into transferring to a bigger, better school. School ‘A’ loses what could have been one of its best players for years to come, while School ‘B’ gains what could either be another piece to its state-championship puzzle, or someone who fails to ever see the field because of the higher level of play.

Promising college scholarships and top-of-the-line facilities are enough to woo almost any child, one too young to understand he or she could gain the same notoriety and build the same muscle at a smaller school. But, before they know it, they’re heading to what they think are greener pastures, and the rich are richer.

This is how most people see the situation. We seem to forget there’s another scenario in which things are a bit backwards, but the end result is the same.

Parents are finding ways to circumvent the system, taking their kid out of one school district and moving him or her to another. They see a certain team or school enjoying success in a sport and immediately feel like their son or daughter would be better off there. They seem to think there’s poor coaching, bad teammates, corrupt administration or some other type of other outside influence that’s holding their kid back. So, John or Jane Doe then approach the coercing adult at the big-time school, convinced all their kid’s problems will be solved there. Forget loyalty to the community they grew up in or the school they attended. Success and building an elite athlete take superiority over all.

Now, it’s a different story if this parent is moving his or her child based on academics. I’m all for someone making the most of a school’s curriculum. However, I think most parents talk themselves into believing they’re making a kid change districts for the right reasons, when really the move is about athletics. And honestly, if a kid applies him or herself, they generally can learn just as much at School ‘A’ as they could at School ‘B,’ just as they also could can gain the same values from sports at one or the other. It’s usually not a coincidence that a star athlete at a small school suddenly ends up at another, more prominent one where it just so happens to have a great tradition in a specific sport.

Sports won’t always be there. I don’t feel the need to give the old spiel about the percentage of athletes who make it to the professional ranks. It’s one in a million (yes, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point). The fact of the matter is people need to remember what it’s like to have loyalty to a township or city. Transferring away from a struggling team or situation isn’t always the answer. Why not have them learn what it’s like to face adversity? The kid is certainly going to see plenty of it at other points of his or her life, and they’ll have a better understanding of how to overcome the tough times because they’ve been through it. And who knows, maybe the team comes together and little Johnny ends up being a legend at Podunk High.

You might not owe anything to the place you call home, or maybe you do. That’s not for me to decide. But before you go and ship your kid off to Pleasantville, remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.